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25 years ago: Andrew Cunanan's killing spree claimed the life of Gianni Versace

25 years ago, San Diegan Andrew Cunanan's killing spree culminated with the death of Gianni Versace
Posted at 4:03 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 20:13:51-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - 25 years ago, San Diegan Andrew Cunanan's killing spree ended with the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace.

Born and raised in National City, Andrew Cunanan was known for telling tall tales as a teenager.

He attended The Bishop’s School in La Jolla and later attended UC San Diego, before dropping out. He moved to San Francisco, but split his time in San Diego.

Roman Jimenez covered the Cunanan story extensively at the time for a local LGBT publication.

“What we could piece together is he supported himself of the largesse of the people around him, and he surrounded himself with wealthy older men,” said Jimenez.

Mark Fanta met Cunanan about a year and a half before the murders. Fanta and his former partner, Michael Williams, co-owned a University Heights restaurant and their close friend Jeffrey Trail would occasionally bring his friend Andrew Cunanan for a bite to eat.

"Andrew had to be the center of attention. All eyes on him,” said Fanta.

By early 1997, Cunanan's friends report he was abusing painkillers and drinking heavily. His credit cards were maxed out.

“After a while the Cunanan show got kind of old. The people who were supporting him got kind of irritated with him and started just cutting him off,” said Jimenez.

In April 1997, Cunanan flew out to Minneapolis to visit two friends, including Jeffrey trail, a former San Diego-based Navy sailor who had left the Navy had moved for a job.

A week prior, Fanta says his partner had a concerning phone call with Trail.

“Jeff stated he had a huge falling out with Andrew and that he made a lot enemies in the past week … He was fearful they were going to kill him,” said Fanta.

Those words would be prophetic.

Days later, at the home of Cunanan's ex-boyfriend David Madson, Cunanan beat Trail to death with a hammer.

Less than a week later, Madson was found on the shore of a lake, shot to death with Trail's gun. That same day, Cunanan drove to Chicago, and bound and killed real estate developer Lee Miglin, before stealing his car.

Six days later, Cunanan shot and killed William Reese, a cemetery caretaker, in New Jersey and stole his truck.

Cunanan would make his way to Miami.

On July 15th, he set his sights on fashion designer Gianni Versace.

“Stalking him and learning his routine and one morning, Cunanan followed him to the front steps of his compound and shot him with Jeffrey Trail's gun,” said Jimenez. “There are a lot of theories as to why he Cunanan might have killed Versace, but the one that makes the most sense to me, is that he was at the end of his rope and wanted to go out with a bang.”

Eight days later, Cunanan shot and killed himself on a houseboat.

In the 25 years that have passed, Cunanan's killing spree continues to be examined in film and TV.

For friends of the victims, a painful anniversary is a still a chance to remember.

“Jeff was a fun loving, charismatic guy, always positive. The memory of Jeff is an amazing person whose life was cut short,” said Fanta.

“In Cunanan's high school yearbook there is a quote next to this picture, in French. Translated to English, it says ‘After me comes the flood.’ I think that it’s an eerily prescient way to remember how Andrew Cunanan lived his life, leaving a wake of devastation behind him,” Jimenez.